Amsterdam was one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age. Having maintained its reputation for art, museums and freedom of expression, today the city is also a tourist hotspot and a destination for revellers across Europe.
Culture Trip recently spoke with DJ and music producer Michel de Hey, who moved to Amsterdam from the second city of Holland a few years ago. “Like Berlin, Barcelona, London etc,” says De Hey, “Amsterdam has the ‘big city’ appeal – a city that’s alive and in motion all the time, from food to art to club culture. It truly attracts people from all walks of life, which makes it a very special place.”
“I used to joke about people from Amsterdam that they would never come to Rotterdam because they could not go by bike,” says De Hey. “But now I understand. Everything is so close to [everything else], and to get there by bike is super easy, so that makes life very simple.”
When wandering around Amsterdam, it is impossible to avoid the bikes that roam the city. The roads are carefully built in the suburbs to allow easy access for bikes, and the tightly packed city centre also has dedicated cycle paths that run close to the tramlines and crisscross a hundred kilometres of grachten (canals).
“Make sure to know the rules of the road, and make sure you know how to ride as sometimes tourists look like kamikaze pilots on their bikes,” says De Hey. “But trams, buses and the subway are great in Amsterdam, and the train from Centraal Station takes you everywhere in Holland within three hours. Make sure you get a pass for multiple days which makes it a lot less expensive and more convenient.”
Laying out the structure of the city, De Hey reveals a bit more about each district. “There is North, East, South and West, but when you live here there are so many areas with their own identity, either Adam Tower or Westergas Area or Vondelpark. These are entities on their own but they are also part of the West or North of Amsterdam.”
“If you want to put a label on things, West is more for creative people and young families. South is for wealthy people with huge, expensive houses; think lawyers, doctors and professional football players. The East is big for students and has a similar vibe to the West with young families. The North is supposed to be affordable to live in, but generally speaking, at least nowadays, everything is expensive in Amsterdam!”
Part of the reason things are now more expensive in Amsterdam is the number of high-profile companies that have moved here in recent years. Netflix has established a headquarters in the city, and Sony and Panasonic relocated to Amsterdam in recent months. The Eurostar now travels directly to Amsterdam from London, so accessibility has never been better for businesses.
For partygoers – and there are many of those either living in or visiting Amsterdam – De Hey picks out the following clubs as his favourites.
De School is a multifaceted cultural venue | Courtesy of De School
“This is a Berlin-influenced club, which for tourists might be hard to get into. They program fewer of the obvious DJs, and the music can range from techno to African house. The location is great – as the name suggests, it’s an old school building.”
“This is the new kid in club town, next to Centraal Station in the basement of the Amsterdam Tower. They have techno and house nights and everything in between, with a keen eye on DJs who are talented but not so established yet. Great sound system too!”
“This is a legendary concert hall where they once had Prince, the Rolling Stones etc but also Underworld, Prodigy and more. They program everything, and their dance events are always quite special. If you are into that you can also check Melkweg; it’s nearby and also with a wide variety of nights.”
“Probably best known for their ADE [Amsterdam Dance Event] after-parties, which go on and on and on and on. Many of the more minimal promoters throw their events here, and the venue itself is cool with an outside area as well.”
“Marktkantine is close to my house, which makes life easy sometimes. A 1,500-capacity venue where they book a huge range of DJs, from Carl Cox to Laurent Garnier to Acid Pauli to Maya Jane Coles and the most popular Dutch DJs.”
“A festival site where they do their daytime parties, which started out on Sunday but nowadays Saturday is also programmed a lot. So many DJs played there, from Seth Troxler to Sven Väth, and the great thing about it is it’s daytime until 23.00. It’s a small club with a true festival vibe.”